E-BIKES FOR EVERYONE!
Barely any innovation has caused such a lasting change to the world of the bicycle as the electric motor. The e-bike is racing from one sales record to the next, hardly any producer now gets by without an electric version in the range, and the pedelec, once mocked as a “senior citizen’s bike” is now enthralling every age group. But really every age group? We’ve taken a look around in the booming segment of e-MTBs for children.
From nought to one hundred in five years
E-bikes for children make up a relatively new segment, and it all started with kids’ e-MTBs. As sporting equipment for juniors, the benefits of the electric motor were immediately apparent: a chance to introduce children to sport while still young, without overexposing them to the strains of steep slopes and long climbs. The fact that a motor makes some things actually possible at all may well have motivated some parents with sporting ambitions and a passion for mountain bikes to make that extra investment rather than opt for a non-motorised MTB. Yet the e-bike for kids has been a matter of dispute from the outset. “When we were one of the first to launch a children’s e-MTB in 2015, the reactions were very mixed. In the end, however, success has proved us right”, recalls Matthias Grick from KTM Bike Industries and emphasises that full-range providers view their own selection of e-bikes for children and teenagers as complementing the non-motorised models.
“The e-bike for us is an extension that gives children and families the opportunity to increase their radius."
Initial criticism gives way to lasting enthusiasm
“Is that really necessary?” “Can’t children do sport without a motor?” “Do you have to give children the feeling of being inadequate?” – those were some of the criticisms raised. In actual fact, the opposite was the case, explains Jasmin Schejbal from the e-mountain bike pioneer Haibike: “The e-bike for us is an extension that gives children and families the opportunity to increase their radius. From our point of view, the experiences tend to build up self-confidence, promote the desire for adventure and the urge to play. Children’s e-bikes are cool and bring domestic bliss away from the games console and monitor.” Teresa Arrieta from the Austrian children’s cycle specialist Woom Bikes describes the same experience and admits: “Initially, we ourselves were very critical. That is until we tried it out. Thanks to the electric drive, a child can tackle tours with self-confidence. Joint voyages of discovery ultimately have a bonding effect and become unforgettable memories that friends share for ever. And, what’s more, regular physical exercise in the fresh air promotes a child’s health and development.”
A tailwind from rental
An important factor for the boom in e-MTBs for children and teenagers has been rental in tourist regions, in the mountains of the Alps of course but also on the coast. Matthias Grick as well as Marc Dierach of the Zweirad-Einkaufs-Genossenschaft (ZEG), a bicycle purchasing cooperative with a range including junior e-MTBs from the brand Bulls are in agreement on this. The ZEG affiliate Eurorad even operates its own e-bike rental platform in holiday resorts with Travelbike. During the nicest time of the year, above all, people want to give themselves a treat and are keen to take an e-bike, explains Dierich, and when their parents are reaping the benefits of an electric tailwind, if not before, the children shouldn’t be left behind and certainly wouldn’t want to be anyway. “The trend in society is towards the e-bike. That’s very clear. Through rental services we are guiding children in particular towards the subject of bikes at an early age, but private sales are booming too – with or without a motor. In any case, mounting an e-bike is not a one-way street. Even after a great e-MTB tour or after having the first e-MTB of their own, many youngsters will still switch to a classic bike without a motor later on, Dierich believes.
“We are delighted by every child who is keen on cycling. After all, once someone starts, they often stay with it for the rest of their life”,
It is safe as well?
The experts agree that the issue of safety is extremely important, particularly when it comes to children. Products from the aforementioned manufacturers uniformly switch off at 20 km/h and reduce the maximum motor torque, regardless of whether they use Bosch (Bulls, Haibike, KTM) or Fazua (Woom) drive systems. “We pay great attention to the support not activating unintentionally. This is why it is always deactivated when the drive is first switched on, and the children have to actively select it”, says Schejbal, explaining an additional safety feature of the Haibike junior e-MTBs. The above producers have adopted different approaches to the entry age. Bulls concentrates on junior e-bikes with wheels from 26 inches, while Haibike, KTM and Woom offer Kids e-MTBs with 24-inch wheels. “Afterwards, children then tend to move onto small adult bikes”, Schejbal points out. Haibike recommends an entry age of about eight and upwards, while Woom states that the child should already be able to ride a bike well: “that’s more important than specifying a particular age”, Arrieta points out.
What will the future bring?
“We are delighted by every child who is keen on cycling. After all, once someone starts, they often stay with it for the rest of their life”, says, Grick of KTM, summing up the general mood. Electric MTBs are not only great bikes but fill children and teenagers with lasting enthusiasm for bikes. And not just in their free time but – provided they have the appropriate safety gear – certainly on the daily rides to school as well. “That’s a better alternative than having their parents acting as a taxi service and driving them to school every day”, says Teresa Arrieta of Woom. Later on, too, the e-bike is a fantastic vehicle for travelling to college or a training centre, adds Marc Dierich of ZEG. “E-bikes are the new scooters. Teenagers of 14-plus love the e-mountain bike. Instead of a petrol engine and moped, many now ride a pedelec. Because it’s a great deal of fun.” And turning to the future: even market leader in children’s bikes Puky has no intention of ruling out junior e-bikes, despite the fact that the Wülfrath-based company currently supplies no such models. As Karsten Geisler explains: “We have an open attitude to the topic of electric mobility in children’s products. We developed the first prototypes 15 years ago. So far, though, we have been unable to see a solution which satisfies our high quality standards and which would be attractive to a large class of buyers in terms of weight and price. We are, however, continuing to work intensively on the topic.”